What all desire, but few have

Community is the buzz word these days.  Schools talk about it.  Churches attempt to create it.  Even communities long for it.  We all desire to be connected, to be known, to be seen, to know that we matter to someone else.  And we all long to grow in meaningful ways – to be transformed into new creations.  The Bible promises us, “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  But that doesn’t mean we can sit back, do nothing, and be instantly transformed into a new creation.  Growth happens when we’re sitting knee-to-knee with individuals we’re deliberate and intentional about “allowing in”.  We build trust, grow friendships, and engage meaningfully with one another.

Opening oneself to community can be initially frightening and overwhelming.  What will they think of me?  What if I can’t trust them?  What if I don’t like them?  What if we don’t get along?  So many questions can flood your mind as you ponder the possibilities of engaging in true community.  And following the questions come the non-stop excuses as to why you shouldn’t, or can’t.

Believe me, I know.  I’ve far too often kept myself emotionally reserved and removed.  As my seminary program at George Fox began with its orientation weekend in August 2010, the thing I most worried about was opening myself to others.  But I did, and now, as we gather together for the third face-to-face time in Portland, after having engaged with everyone in online discussions, it is the community that is by far the highlight.  The class materials are engaging.  The discussions are meaningful.  The knowledge gained is significant.  But it is the community we have already built amongst ourselves that is overwhelmingly beautiful.

We come from all walks of life.  We don’t agree on politics or theology.  We are married, single, divorced and in-between.  We have no kids, grown kids, a few kids and lots of kids.  We fly into Portland from all over the United States.  And yet coming together is like a family reunion.  Actually, it’s like the high points of a family reunion.  We rejoice over each other’s joys.  We cry and pray over each other’s sorrows and frustrations.  We joke and laugh.  We talk deeply of things.  We have community.

God designed each of our brains to actually connect and learn from others.  We cannot be healthy or stable as independent vessels, cut off from each other.  Are you in a healthy community?  Or have you cut yourself off from engaging deeply with others?  Who might you engage with deeply?  They may be in your church, your neighborhood, or across the world.  Community can indeed happen online.  As you think about who you might engage with, take a look at this acrostic of community, and take some beginning steps to start building!

Courageously engaging with one another in real ways
Opportunities for wrestling and questioning
Meaningful conversations get beyond the surface level
Make the time and be accountable
United under banner of Christ
Nudge you out of comfort zones
Invite others in and show interest in them
Transformation – are you ready for it?
Your health and life depend on it
  • F.B.

    i love it

  • Lindsay

    Do you have any suggestions for better incorporating singles into church communities?

    • What a great question! Thinking about various churches I’ve been a part of, I know there are usually “Singles Ministries” that do their own thing. But, I contrast that with the community I experience with our cohort group for seminary….we have singles, marrieds, divorcees, kids, no kids, young, old…..and it is precisely the diversity in our group that makes it so amazing. There are times we talk about our spouses, but usually, we’re focused on other things. So my “gut reaction” is that singles should be part of church communities just as much as marrieds are. There are so many ways we can connect with one another beyond our marital status that I think we too easily “cop out” when we think each individual group has to have their own thing. One interesting thing too is that groups formed around affinity groups (ie young marrieds, singles, young professionals…) while initially are easier to connect with, actually produce the least amount of spiritual growth and change. A goal (if not THE goal) of church communities should be to grow us all up in Christ, and therefore, that’s going to be accomplished more successfully with mixed groups (which fits what I’ve experienced with our seminary cohort group too)…. Is that too “easy” of an answer – maybe. What do you think?